Today is the 7th anniversary of my brain injury.

Each year on January 15th, I look back on my progress.  I have much to be thankful for.  I am not living my life from the couch as doctors told me I would be.  I am living a full life filled with activities.  When I look back through the years my progress is very clear. 

Soon after my brain injury, I slept most of the day.  I get through my days without a nap now.  I do take time to rest several times a day.  I no longer suffer the pain of a constant migraine that hovers between an 8 and 9 on a scale of 1-10.  My migraine is now a 1 or 2.  I don’t have to cruise the furniture like a toddler or have family members hold me up to walk.  My balance is good and I can walk on my own. 

I don’t stutter at all anymore.    My word finding skills are much better too.  I can speak fluidly without having to stop to find words to express myself.  My special relationships are better too.  I can read a map without getting turned around.  The pain in my neck and shoulders is no longer debilitating.  I don’t have to get in the spa 5 or 6 times a day to loosen them up.  I can read and comprehend without reading the same sentence over and over.  I can write legibly and rarely transpose letters.  I have fully regained my sense of taste.  I no longer have to load food up with garlic in order to be able to taste a slight hint of it.   

I have more energy and am able to plan things out so I get the rest I need.  I still over-do it, but plan a recovery day to replenish myself.  I still have some memory problems, but I am able to cope with them well.  I am able to remember well enough to carry on a conversation without asking for people to repeat themselves constantly.  I do still hear “I already told you that,” but not multiple times a day.  It happens once every week or so now.  When I’m in the city where there are big parking lots, I still need to park close to the entrance so I can find my car. 

I still have light sensitivity, but it is not as bad as it was.  I don’t need to wear sunglasses in the house with all the curtains closed.  I can go without sunglasses when I can control the environment.  I am most affected by fluorescent lighting.  The sunglasses I wear now are a lighter tint and they make it so I can spend a longer amount of time in other environments. 

I don’t have to stay home to avoid overstimulation.  There are still events that I avoid, but the list is much shorter.  I avoid events with loud music.  I can now handle crowds and busy environments.  I still need to be aware of my limits and leave before I become too over-stimulated.   I still use earplugs when I go to the movies and prefer to watch at home where the volume can be controlled.  I still have to close my eyes when there are fast moving scenes or really bright scenes.  That’s not really a big deal.   

All in all, after 8 years I have had many improvements.  My brain injury has been quite the learning experience.  I have experienced first-hand what it is like to have a learning disability.  I now know what a really bad headache is.  I thought I knew before my brain injury, but I had no idea!  Pain that makes you unable to function and causes vomiting is way different than any headache I had ever experienced before.  I have experienced the fear of not ever being able to think clearly again. 

We have all had the experience of not being able to come up with a word or someone’s name, but having that sort of trouble day in and day out is an entirely different story.  I wanted to go back to the way my life was before my brain injury.  As I moved through different phases of anger and grieving, I realized that I didn’t want to go back to who I was.  Going backwards is never a good goal.  I needed to move forward and become the person that I would naturally become through my experiences. 

How did I make so much progress?  There were many factors in my journey forward.  One of the biggest factors was my refusal to accept less than I wanted.  After lots of physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, massage, vision therapy , chiropractic and cranio-sacral therapy combined with every drug you can imagine, the results were not acceptable.  I was still told I needed to accept that most of my life would be spent on the couch. 

My neuropsychologist recognized that I was not willing to settle for that.  He referred me to his college roommate who had gone into neurofeedback. 

Neurofeedback was the missing piece in my recovery program.  After only a few sessions, I could feel things starting to change.  By the end of my first 20 session block, I could see that I was going to be able to have the life I wanted.  I told my therapist that I had to learn how to do this and help other people experience the wonderful changes that I was experiencing.  She said, “Rachelle, let’s get you better first.”  I started doing daily neurofeedback sessions for myself with her guidance and things continued to improve.  After 2 years of treating myself, I learned how to treat others.  Being a neurofeedback therapist is extremely rewarding for me.  I love helping people’s lives change!

Now I have mostly a hidden disability that I can manage with strategies and accommodations that people don’t usually notice.  For instance, I keep my client load down so that I have enough energy to meet their needs.  My office is a controlled environment with full spectrum daylight dimmable lighting.  I continue with neurofeedback sessions for myself that keep me working at my peak performance potential. 

Recovery takes time.  Recovery has been difficult. And the further I get in the process, the harder it is for me to see the incremental changes.  Looking back years helps me to see how far I have really come.  Seeing the distance I have traveled gives me confidence, strength and hope.   I look at life very differently now.   Life is good.

Neurofeedback and Weight Loss

Weight loss is not an easy undertaking.  Overeating throws off your body’s natural balance.   When your body is out of balance your natural appetite controls don’t work.  You lose the ability to feel when you need to eat and when to stop.  The key to permanent weight loss is to restore these natural sensors.

The main patterns that lead to overeating are anxiety, depression and self-loathing.   Anxiety causes overeating when you get frightened, feel stressed, or are overwhelmed with life.  Depression leads to overeating when you feel empty or deprived and you can’t express yourself.  You may be stuck in a life with a lack of support and meaning that leaves you angry and lonely.  Self loathing comes from guilt, negative self image and low self esteem.  All these patterns can lead to cravings of unhealthy foods.  Diet programs don’t usually address these patterns.  Restricting your portions often just makes these problems bigger.

Diets are not natural and often leave you feeling deprived.  They are short term solutions to a long term problem.  No one wants to be a calorie counter for the rest of their life.  Your BMI (body mass index) is not as important as gaining control of your body.  If you have tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig or other weight loss programs without lasting results, you are not alone.  You can’t retrain your brain by restricting food intake, so your problems with overeating keep returning.  You lose weight only to put it back on.   The only way to keep doing well on a diet is to stay on the program forever.  This is an external program trying to take over for a natural internal balance.  (Not to mention making you a long term customer.)  Change doesn’t take place because the diet program addresses the symptom of being overweight rather than the cause.  It is difficult to make internal change.

Neurofeedback can help bring your body and emotions to a balanced state.  It resets basic body functions such as sleep cycles and appetite control.  Neurofeedback trains your brain to know when you are hungry and when you are full.  With neurofeedback you will gain natural control over your appetite.  Your cravings will be reduced and your brain will guide you to a healthy lifestyle.

Neurofeedback works with your subconscious.  You may have difficulty changing habits because the habit you’d like to change is not stored in the conscious part of your brain.  Your subconscious controls your habits, much like your heartbeat and breathing.  You don’t have to think about each heartbeat or breath.  They just happen.  Cravings and overeating are not things that you think about, either.  You don’t consciously choose to overeat or have cravings for unhealthy foods.  They just happen automatically.  Your subconscious is programmed to react to events with unhealthy eating.

Without neurofeedback, reaching your subconscious and changing the messages it is sending is difficult.  Neurofeedback therapy talks straight to your subconscious.  It shows your brain how it is functioning in real time and provides feedback that shows your brain where to make changes.  We customize every neurofeedback session to your particular needs –for example, appetite and cravings.  By doing so, we address the triggers for overeating.

Triggers for overeating are often emotional.  Eating for emotional reasons creates patterns in your brain.  These patterns become deeper and deeper as they are carried out over and over.  Neurofeedback helps to stabilize your emotions.  It works on emotional patterns that lead to overeating.  With neurofeedback training, you will fall into these unhealthy patterns less frequently.  When you do, it will be easier to stop and return to a healthier pattern.

Neurofeedback makes change easier.  You can stabilize your emotional and physical health and reduce cravings with neurofeedback therapy.  Neurofeedback helps reduce negative thoughts and increases positive attitudes.  It helps you deal with past traumas and distance yourself from them.  Increase self-awareness and strengthen your sense of self with neurofeedback.  Be yourself and feel good about it!  Weight loss will naturally follow.


Chemo Brain Fog

I attended “A Day for Women” at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Grass Valley last weekend.   I was an exhibitor and spoke to many women about their cancer experiences.  One Issue that kept coming up was chemo brain. 

Chemo brain is a mental fog or “cloudiness” that causes cognitive problems such as word finding, memory problems, and difficulty paying attention.  It is a side effect that occurs during, and after chemotherapy.  Depression, anxiety, memory loss and insomnia often accompany chemo brain. 

Chemo brain affects everyday life and can make it difficult or impossible for patients to return to work or school.  I posted an article about a study that is taking place about the effect of neurofeedback on chemo brain fog.

One of the researchers conducting this study, Jean Alvarez, has experienced chemo brain herself.  Her chemo brain symptoms lasted seven years, until she discovered neurofeedback.  Her insomnia disappeared in 3 sessions and her depression was gone in 10 sessions.  Her positive experience with neurofeedback led to the research project.  Some people respond very quickly like Jean, while others can take longer to see results.  Quality of life is an important issue in cancer care and neurofeedback can help.

Did you see me on TV?

I enjoyed being interviewed by Lynn Wenzel for the Business and Professional Women of Nevada County monthly talk show.  We discussed how neurofeedback can help with PTSD and stress.  Thank you to Lynn, Gabrielle and the staff at NCTV for a wonderful experience.

You can watch the video here.

Summer Learning Special

As the school year comes to a close, kids who have been struggling in school get a break and an opportunity.  Summer break gives them a chance to get out of the classroom and into the world.  Kids have time to let go of school frustrations and embrace some fun times. This is the perfect opportunity for you, as a parent, to help your kids learn some new skills which will help them flourish in school.

To help you take advantage of summertime, I am offering a Summer Learning Special.  New clients who begin before June 15th, 2010 get 20% off  sessions from June-August, 2010.  Call today to set up your free consultation where we will discuss your child’s specific needs.  (530) 263-1413.

Neurofeedback in the News for PTSD

Here is a recent news report about how neurofeedback has helped vets with PTSD.  My training in neurofeedback is from the Othmer’s.

Olympic Gold with Neurofeedback

The Vancouver Winter Games are the talk of the town.  The Canadian Press ran an article on February 15th explaining the “Top Secret” that gave Canadian athlete Alexandre Bilodeau the winning edge he needed to take the gold.  Neurofeedback is his secret!  Neurofeedback helped him get his mind and body working well together.  It helped him to reduce stress, focus better, and become more self-aware. 

You can read The Canadian Press article here.

New Discovery: The Brain & ADHD

It’s not all about attention and cognitive function anymore. Researchers have discovered new information about the brain’s reward system.  Children with ADHD have less motivation to continue a task than those without ADHD. When a reward is not immediate and does not occur regularly throughout the task, the ADHD child is not motivated to continue. This helps to explain why their attention and hyperactivity levels differ depending on the task. 

This new research goes a long way to explaining why neurofeedback helps ADHD children so much.  Neurofeedback addresses the brain’s reward system as well as targeting attention, cognitive function and impulse control.

Read about the study here.


The Food Bank Needs Our Help

As most of you know, I live in Nevada County, California.  The economy here, like so many places is really tough.  Even so, the people here are great.

Our local Food Bank is overwhelmed with demand.  Things are so bad, that they’re running out of food and rationing to those in need.

While I was at Passion into Action today (which was great), I made an announcement about the trouble the Food Bank is having.  In almost no time, I collected $590 in donations for the Food Bank!

Thank you everyone.  I’ll get the money to the Food Bank right away.

If anyone wants to make a donation and you can’t make it to the Food Bank, you can take it to Aikido’Ka.

Students Facing the Greater Depression

Our kids are under so much pressure. Many take drugs to deal with their anxiety and depression. Neurofeedback can help reduce or eliminate drug use for depression and anxiety.

Here’s the article.